09 December, 2009

Teaspoons Aren't Enough*

I would like to recount for you a conversation I had today with one of the presumed-males in my kindy room. Said PM is one of the oldest in my room, and attends a Kindy** part-time.
This conversation occurred while he was playing with some cardboard cars. He said that his car was "a boys' car" and mocked the other child for holding "a girls' car".

I went over to talk to the child, and this exchange occurred. (NB: K = me, PM = the child)

K: What makes your car a boys' car?
PM: Well, it goes really fast.
K: Girls can go really fast, too.
PM: *look of disbelief* What?
K: It's true. Girls can race in race cars.
PM: No way!
K: Yup. Some girls even build their own race cars, and then race in them.
PM: But I've never seen a girl race on TV.

Now try telling me that the media doesn't have an impact on children. This is why feminists sweat the "small stuff". It very quickly ads up to "big stuff".

*A reflection on my feelings of helplessness, not an idea that we should stop teaspooning.
**The type attached to a primary school

06 December, 2009

How I Discovered Ableism

This is the story of how I first became a disability rights activist, before I knew what those words meant. I can remember the story clearly, and even now thinking about it fills me with inconsolable rage.

As some of you know, my younger brother has Asperger's Syndrome, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

When Adam was in year three, he was dealing with some pretty intense bullying. He often came home upset, had no friends, and did all he could at lunch to escape the tormenting. At this point, my father was in intense pain from his car accident and also in the midst of deep depression, so he was rarely seen out of his room where he slept all day. My mother was working nights to make ends meet, and so also spent a lot of the time asleep. They tried their hardest, but did not have the energy to do more than have a few phone calls to the principle, who was "aware of the matter, and looking into it".

I was 13, and has taken over the role of parent to the younger children (because my older brother is irresponsible). I made sure the younger children did their homework, ate enough food (Mum did grocery shopping while I was at school, but I often cooked). I made sure the clothes were washed, the animals fed, the eggs collected, the children got to school on time. So it's not really all that surprising when Adam came to me for help with the bullying.

Despite my mother's phone calls, the situation had continued to escalate. A situation occurred when some tormentors had followed him into the bathrooms after he ignored them, and continued to torment him there. He got upset, and yelled and cried at them, and they pushed him into his own urine.

I decided at that point that enough was enough, and I was going to visit his teacher after school and discuss it. I gave Adam a not to give her, so she would be expecting me, and told him to wait for me to pick him up after class. The next afternoon, dressed in my private school uniform, I made my way to the school to talk with my little brother's year three teacher.

I sat in front of her, my heart pounding in my chest, describing the series of events and how they had escalated. I told her about my mother's calls to the principle and how they had been ignored. I asked her what she was going to do to make this school a safe place for my brother.

Her answer? Nothing. She gave me all the usual excuses; "boys will be boys", "you weren't there, how do you know he didn't cause it?", "It would be showing favouritism to take his side". I was shocked. I was angry. My heart pounded rapidly, my cheeks became red.

"Three boys, against my brother. They ganged up on him. They pushed him into his own urine. How can you say that it's his fault?"

She told me, with not hint of irony, that it was his fault because of his Asperger's. He provoked them, she said. And if he could just be more normal this wouldn't be happening.
She said this to me. She told me that my brother deserved the bullying because he wasn't normal, that it was his fault.

I can't remember if I replied. I remember my eyes were clouded with angry tears. I remember feeling betrayed. I remember taking my brother by the hand and leading him out of the room. I remember not saying a single thing on the walk home, waiting until I arrived to rant loudly and angrily at anyone who would listen.

I don't know if anything official came from my meeting. I know that my mother was just as pissed as me, but I don't know if she continued to pursue the matter. I know that my other younger brother, who was nine years old and in year four, took it upon himself to become Adam's protector. Because the teachers did nothing, Josh stayed with Adam at lunch and recess, and beat up anyone who dared to say anything against him. After he beat up a group of four year 7s, people got the message and left Adam alone.

This incident has stuck with me. My little brother could not speak for himself because of the power dynamic inherent in teacher-student relationships. He was completely at her mercy, and they both knew it. I came in because I knew it. I was an outside party, not part of that school, not bound by that dynamic. But this was not enough, because she knew she could disregard him and get away with it. She knew she could disregard the safety of one of her students with no ill effects because of his disability.


This is why disability activism is so important to me. Because people like her are out there, in positions of power, treating people like shit because of their disabilities. And they're doing so with impunity. This cannot continue, and I will do everything in my power to try and stop it.

04 November, 2009

Positive Experiences with Disability Activism

I had some really positive experiences today with some disability activism that I would really like to share. The first two were at work and the third at an after-work conference for language development in the Middle Swan area.

I was having a Kindy staff meeting with the kindy qualified and the director, who each work a half day in the kindy room.The Qualified has been working full time, but has had some back issues so has dropped to part time.
Anyway, the meeting was to discuss programming, jobs, and get me up to speed with the running of the room, 'cause I'm new there.

We have decided to split the group into two for certain activities, and were working on the split. We didn't want Group 1 and Group 2 or Group A and Group B, because we don't want the children thinking Group 1/A is the "better" group, so we've decided to call them colours.
Director said, "Let's make it Red and Green." and Qualified agreed.
I said, "That's a bad idea for accessibility, because people who are red green colourblind will have trouble telling the difference" (this is assuming the children have a red or green dot on their work or something like that)
Director said, "I never would have thought of that. That's why we need you here, to bring it up."
The colours are now Red and Blue.

The second happened in the same staff meeting. I said I wanted to start introducing the children to some sign language. Not only were the staff positive and receptive, but they encouraged it and gave me ideas on how we could implement it.

Finally, at the mini-conference.
We were watching a short film called Gus's Story about a child with some language developmental delays. I was listening to the mother talking about her fears, and her fear that her child would never speak but instead use sign language or message boards.
I had mixed feelings about this film. On the one hand, I understand that the mother is scared and feeling alone. Her husband had also just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
On the other hand, the types of things she is worrying about bother me. She is worried that her son won't be "normal", and at the end relieved when he is.

I'm not bothered by her, per se, more about how society as a whole views disability as something broken, something needing to be fixed. And what the hell is wrong with sign language or message boards?

I wasn't going to say anything. I was already disturbed by the video, and it was a room full of people I don't know which can set off my anxiety. But then, in the comments and question session at the end, everyone kept talking about the mother. About her fear, about her openness to address the issue, about how to talk to her (and reassure her that it could be "fixed" :( )... No one had mentioned the child.

When she handed me the mike, I said something to the effect of (can't remember verbatim, I was a little emotional at the time): We need to realise that even if a child does have something like Autism or a language disorder, that they aren't less important, they are still whole children who need our love and support, they aren't something broken that needs to be fixed.
I was so close to tears by the end of that, less from the stress and more from just the emotion. Dealing with people who've held those attitudes, it really does affect me.

But after I said it? People clapped. The speaker thanked me for bringing it up and told everyone that it was vitally important that they all remember and act on that. After the talk, someone came up to me and thanked me again and said I was fantastic (no, I wasn't. I shouldn't have gotten that response). It makes me happy that something I've said might have some small effect on the people there, and hopefully on the children in their care.

What I want people to take away from this is not about me. Please do not thank me or congratulate me or anything like that, because honestly, that's not what this is about.

I want to stress that it is troublesome that I need to bring these things up. It shouldn't have to be done. But it does, and so long as I am in a position where I have the spoons to do it, I will, and I encourage people to do the same. Because there could be a person there who hasn't the spoons to deal with it.

The other thing I want you to take away from this is hope. Some things make a difference! Some things said in everyday interactions have an effect! And, for me today, that made all of the failed attempts just a little more bearable.

As I said to LM: I think I've thoroughly "outed" myself as a health-conscious disability activist greenie, how long before I "out" myself as a feminist too? :P
(Not too long, by the looks of things, but that's off topic)

The sign for today was Thank You.

10 October, 2009

The Spoon Theory: How Does It Affect You?

The Spoon Theory is a theory used to explain life with a disability. In short: you have 12 spoons. Every activity uses up a number of spoons, some more than others, due to pain, emotional turmoil, and a host of other symptoms. Able-bodied (and neurotypical) persons have mostly unlimited spoons, and so don't have to worry about rationing their spoons out for fear they may need them more for another task.

While reading a post at Hoyden About Town about able-bodied people co opting the spoon theory, I began thinking about how spoons affect everybody differently.

For me, it's about mental illness, somethng which I still struggle to identify as a disability. There are three ways that this can hit me. They are all inextricably linked, but for the purpose of this exercise I will talk about them separately. These three things are: depression, anxiety and social anxiety.

Depression: this is probably the most constant thing I feel. It is slowly but surely taxing. Every day I experience depression it takes a little bit more out of me. Every day it gets a little bit harder to function until, before I realise it's happened, I've hit rock bottom and am no longer living. And suddenly I have no spoons. Without LM to prompt me I will not get out of bed, I will not eat, I will just lie in bed doing nothing all day. I wish I was exaggerating.

Anxiety: this comes in bouts. It's hard to tell whether it is a precursor for deprssion or occurs because of depression, but the two get worse at a similar level. When I am in an anxious period I have to ration all of my interactions, including those that take place online. Each time I venture from the house, a spoon is used. Each bus or train I get on uses a spoon. Online interactions use less, but it's often hard for me to tell until they've been used up. I am paranoid during this time. It feels like I am constantly being watched and judged. Every action feels forced and fake.

Social anxiety: this is similar but different to "normal" anxiety. It can and does strike at any time, regardless of previous mood. It is the anxiety I feel when seeing specific groups of people (my family, LM's family, northam, some others) and the anxiety I feel when I am around unfamiliar people. I need to ration carefully or I will start bawling in the middle of a social interaction. LM is my rock, and often I can cope by hiding behind Him, but spoons are limited.

I should note that although these are separate uses of spoons, they are not separate supplies. If all my spoons are drained when I am depressed, for example, that's it, they're done.

There's my story. How do your spoons affect you?

Hey Hey It's Saturday: Racist Defense Bingo Card

After the Hey Hey It's Saturday skit featuring blackface went to air, there were a number of people rightly offended. There were a number of other people who just didn't seem to get it, and have made all sorts of arguments as to why it';s perfectly acceptable. I have compiled the most repeated and most ridiculous arguments in a Bingo Card, which I will now share with you. (Click for a better image)

Now let's talk about why these arguments are ridiculous.

It's the Australian sense of humour
There are types of Australian humour that I like: pantomime, dead-pan, self deprecating humour...
Then there's humour that relies on treading on the already disenfranchised: racist humour, sexist humour, ableist humour, humour against transgendered people, humour against anyone not straight... This type of humour does nothing more than strengthen the status quo which tells us that the highest thing to push for is being a white, straight, able-bodied cis man. This isn't inherently Australian, it's inherently appalling.

Americans imposing values!
You mean values like decency and a respect for fellow people? How horrible! Why would we ever want that? (Please not the heavy sarcasm)

But Australia didn't have slavery!
Australia didn't officially have slavery. But Australia has a history of white supremacy, treating Aboriginal Australians as non-human and forcing them to work in appalling conditions for very little pay, if any at all (normally none). Australia does not have anything remotely resembling a clean history when it comes to racism.

They won't change for us, why should we change for them?
Ah yes, cultural relativism. This argument basically boils down to "But he started it!" We don't want to end racism because other countries are, we want to end racism because it's the right thing to do.

They're impersonating the Jackson 5, of course they have to black up!
If they were impersonating the Jackson 5 they would make an attempt to look like the Jackson 5. What they did was apply boot polish to mock them, and also to mock Michael Jackson's auto-immune disease (you know, the one which caused his skin to lighten?)

But it was a TRIBUTE!
To who? Michael? It is not a tribute to make fun of someone who has only recently died. Especially not in the way they performed it, which was clearly derogatory.

It was just a JOKE!
Yes, it was a joke. A joke that is deeply entrenched in years of institutionalised racism and hatred. It's not just a joke, it's a joke filled with hatred and mistreatment and a denial of justice. Go on, keep laughing.

It's the INTENT that matters
No, it isn't. I know they didn't intend to be racist, but that doesn't stop the skit from being racist.

Lighten up already
Deal with years of oppression based on the colour of your skin already!

But it's just a TV show
TV is a popular medium which continues to perpetuate stereotypes. This is generally considered by progressives as Not Good.

But they were all doctors and respectable people
Then they should know better. Next!

What did you expect?
I didn't expect anything. I'm responding to what I got. And what I got was a horribly racist skit.

Just harden up!
Just deal with years of violence and hatred based on the colour of your skin!

I don't see how it's racist
This is what is known as privilege. If you don't have any clue what privilege means, I suggest you do some research. I'll even help! Read this.

No one cares!!
This is probably the most ridiculous argument I've heard. Of course people care! That's why we're talking about it!

Harry Connick Jnr. is a HYPOCRIT
You're referring to the Preacher skit. Also racist. It doesn't magically make this skit less racist. The world doesn't work like that.

What about 'White Chicks'?
... I'm not sure I can even be bothered answering this one. Anyone wanna help me out?

It wouldn't be offensive if it was 'whiteface'
Do you honestly not see the difference between a non-privileged person making fun of a privileged person, and a privileged person making fun of a non-privileged? Seriously? Racism = prejudice + power.

But the guy is Indian!
No one is immune from racism.

Robert Downey Jnr. did it and won an Oscar!
I haven't seen Tropic Thunder, so I can't know for sure, but I was under the impression that it was mocking the Hollywood portrayal of "the other". BIIIIG difference.

I'm not a racist, but...
Just like "No offence, but..." this is a common tactic used by people who are about to say something extremely racist or otherwise offensive. Saying "I'm not a racist" does not make your statement any less racist.

Chris Rock makes 'white jokes' all the time
Please see my response to "whiteface".

I know this black person and he doesn't care
I say again: no one is immune to racism!

It's political correctness gone MAD!
1. Don't use ableist language.
2. What the hell is wrong with e little bit of respect? I don't get it!

"...storm in a teacup"
*sigh* It would be, if this was an isolated incident and Australia didn't have such a sordid history of racism. It would be if the world was all completely utopian and equal and people weren't routinely discriminated against because they were not straight white able-bodied cis men. But the world isn't like that. The world is full of hate and discrimination and we need to call it out every time we see it. Every time. It's the only way there can ever be any change at all.

Kitkat said in the comments:
White chicks was not only racist but sexist as well at least in my opinion. I found a good review for it here

As for tropic thunder a review from the same website.

Thanks Kitkat!

I'm very new to dealing with issues of racism, so please feel free to amend, correct, alter or whatever my arguments. Any help would be appreciated. Please feel free to link this page to anyone you know.

26 September, 2009

Christian Privilege

Before you read this post, please note that I present here my vast lack of knowledge with regards to world religions. As a result I'm almost certain I have misrepresented something. Please let me know if I have offended you in the process.

I was reading this post at Shakesville about referring to Christians who are conservative/fundamental as "Christians" or Not Real Christians, as well as discussing issues of Christian Privilege. It got me thinking about Christian privilege; something which I haven't really considered before (which in itself is a form of privilege). I have no doubt that Christian privilege exists, especially in America, but also very much prevalent in Australia.

The idea was brought up in the thread that in Australia, religion is a very private thing, and you often don't know the religion of friends and colleges. While this is true to an extent1, I still think that Christians still have a huge amount of privilege in this country.
Some points;
  • Our entire legal system and judicial system is based on the Christian Church
  • Abortion is illegal in some states, and hard to obtain in others
  • Same-sex marriage is Constitutionally denied
  • Senator-fucking-Fielding too often has the deciding cards in the political sphere!

LM's father once said, on the eve of the last Federal Election, that we had two choices: "A left-wing religious nut or a right-wing religious nut".

I'd like to quote part of a comment of Lauredhel's from that same thread, which addresses some points better than I could hope to:
"The Liberal Party is heavily influenced by highly conservative Christian sects, which has been a major issue for reproductive rights in Australia. The Victorian abortion law reform _barely_ scraped through, with Catholics getting a large amount of press on the subject. Abortion law elsewhere is in the doldrums; we have a woman in Queensland right now facing up to seven years in jail for taking abortion pills, and the status of RU486 is still a mess. Women seeking abortions need to be warned about protestors before turning up to their appointment. Fake "crisis pregnancy care" hotlines are funded by government to scare women off abortion. People are talking up Tony Fucking Abbott as the next Lib leader. Balance of power problems are recurrent, with douchetrumpets like Harradine and Fielding holding cards way too often

Attempts to establish Islamic schools meet with resistance all the way along the line. The government gives enormous handouts to already highly privileged Christian schools for rich kids while public schools for underprivileged kids languish. Virtually all rich schools are Christian. Our mission history is hideous and shameful, and deeply affects Indigenous people today.

The six most populous religious affiliations in the Census are Christian sects.

Public holidays occur at Christmas and Easter. Public Christmas decorations include Santa and stars, but also nativity displays.

We still have no same-sex marriage.

Christian religious education occurs by default in public schools in some states (including mine) unless a parent/guardian opts out in writing; even then, Christian dogma can weave into other parts of the curriculum. I've encountered this at least three times just in the past year with only one child - Jesus Christmas carols in music class and in the Carols event at the end of the year; Bible stories and colouring-in in class time at Easter; the teacher replying "we try to instil Biblical values in the children" when talking about the nominally-secular Values Program. Institutions like Hillsong Church are being given access to public school children."

I would like to give you a small example of the most basic of Christian privileges: not having to explain every aspect of your religion to people who don't follow it. Let me tell you something. I was raised by a fundamentalist Church of Christ minister. I attended a Catholic high school for two years. I was Confirmed as an Anglican, and still self-identify as Anglican. Here is the (horribly little) that I know about religions other than Christian.

I want everyone to know that I put the various religions in the order they are in for a reason. I noticed when I started this exercise that as I got further away from Christianity, I knew less and less about the specific religion.

I know about Passover, because it is celebrated by Christians too. I don't know any of the customs or rituals surrounding it.
I know Hanukkah is celebrated around the same time as Christmas, but I don't know the exact date. I know a candle of the Menorah is lit every night for... some nights, I don't know how many. I don't know why, and I don't know in what order they are lit.
I know that there a dietary restrictions, such as no shellfish, no pork (or any animal with... cloven hoof?), meat must be completely drained of blood, don't mix meat with dairy... It strikes me that I still think of these as restrictions in the Old Testament, as opposed to in the Torah.
Circumcision represents... connection to God? The Covenant?

Followers of Islam are called Muslims.
Some women wear a headscarf called a hijab, or full body covering called a burka.
Muslims also have dietary restrictions, similar (or same?) as the Jewish restrictions.
Muslims follow the Koran.
Jews and Christians are referred to as "People Of The Book".
Rammadan is 40 days of fasting during daylight hours, but I don't know when it is or why or anything else about it.

Um... There's a circle of reincarnation? Buddha gets reincarnated lots? Um??

... There are lots of gods and goddesses, and they have many arms. And Hindus don't eat beef.

Nothing at all. Something about ancestors... But yeah, nothing.

I haven't mentioned Pagan or Wiccan beliefs because I actually know a fair bit about that. Because, as well as being Anglican, I follow many of those beliefs, and have spent a great deal of time researching them. I feel it would be disingenuous to the post to "show off" what I know in this area.

Behold, my vast ignorance. But, ignorance can be rectified! I find religion, as a subject, to be incredibly fascinating. This has motivated me to study some religions I know very little about. Hopefully I'll be less ignorant in the future.

30 August, 2009

Nature Vs. Nurture

Caution, pseudo-scientific ramblings ahead.

I've seen this argument come up a lot. Generally, when a feminist or whatever mentions inequality (such as the gender pay gap), someone brings up the argument that
"The most likely cause of these gender-based psychological differentials is the structure and function of the male brain. Which in turn can be traced back to our genetic hard-wiring."
Yup, we're all just wired that way. Girls are hard-wired to like pink and ponies and babies and cooking. Boys are hard-wired to like race cars and combat boots and running into each other at high speeds.

Of course, I call bullshit.

I present you with some anecdata:
As a lot of you already know, I work in the childcare industry. I know, I know, a woman working in a female-dominated industry, how feminist of me ;) Anyway, I have the amazing opportunity to observe many children growing up. I won't pretend to be an expert on this, because, after all, I'm new in the industry, but there are some trends I have noticed.

Let's take the child I will refer to as G. When I started work at the centre, G was in the toddler room. G was a very sweet little toddler. He would talk to me a lot (he was a big talker) and would often play tea-party with me. He made me imaginary tea and cakes, and had great fun caring for baby dolls or pretending to vacuuming the floor, or telling me how much he loved corn while eating it kernel by kernel.

Now? Well, now G is in the kindy room. He rarely talks to me, won't accept hugs anymore, won't go near the dolls because they are "girly", thinks tea parties are stupid.
And so I wonder, what precisely is it that made him change so much? If it was simply a matter of nature, why wasn't he aggressive earlier? There were plenty of aggressive children, both male and female, that he could have chosen to play with but didn't.

Throughout the centre, gender differences become more obvious the higher the age of the children. The children in the babies room don't have the same segregation as far as interests and activities are concerned. That's not to say that they don't all have distinct personalities. Even the youngest baby will have its own personality. But they don't seem to notice the gender differences.

The toddler room? Also not segregated. the toddlers don't seem to notice gender differences, and they certainly don't act differently be they male or female. The same number of boys and girls are playing with the prams as are sitting in a corner with cars as are constantly asking me to read to them or swing them around or chase them.

But when we reach the kindy room, suddenly everything is different. Suddenly girls are playing in the home corner and boys are playing with the trains. G and T, two boys who have moved to the kindy room since I began, occasionally played with the dolls, but slowly gave it up.
This leads me to believe that Nurture, not Nature, is the reason for a lot of gender discrepancies we see in adults.

Secondly, the theory that our brains are "hard-wired" is just ludicrous! Haven't you heard? The Brain Is Plastic!
As Marguerite Holloway says in Scientific American:
"It is as if the brain is a vast floodplain. One year the water might run eastward in a series of small channels; the next it might cut a river deep through the center. A year later, and a map of the floodplain looks completely different: streams are meandering to the west. It is the same with a brain, the argument goes. Change the input--be it a behavior, a mental exercise, such as calculating a tip or playing a new board game, or a physical skill--and the brain changes accordingly."
So don't you think it's worth considering that a lot of these "scientific differences" described in books such as Why Men Want Sex & Women Need Love (Alan and Barbara Peace) can be explained by socialisation? Perhaps it is socialisation causing these differences, and not innate gender differences?

28 August, 2009

Why I Can't Just Discuss

Trigger Warning

A line from this Shakesville post has really stuck with me.
"These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that's so much fun for them is the stuff of my life."

A lot of stuff has been happening in the Blogosphere recently. There was the post I spoke about earlier; there were posts and Hoyden About Town where intelligent debate was "sacrificed" because of a "lack of emotional distance"; there was a post at Feministe where a rape apologist thought that, obviously, the posters there couldn't achieve the emotional distance necessary for intelligent debate.

This is a topic that has come up before. Why can't you just have an intelligent debate, why do you have to take it so personally? The thing is, this is personal. This is not something I can stand back from and just talk about. This is my life.

This is not being able to sleep a night because of the images in my head.

This is hyperventilating and shaking and scratching at my arms because I can't get it out of my mind.

It's flashbacks when I'm changing a pooey nappy because I need to pull apart the lips of her vagina to clean inside.

It's wondering what the hell is wrong with me that I can't just forget it, that I can't just let it go.

This is fearing for my life as I walk down an empty street at night, keys in my hand and phone at the ready.

It is the gripping fear when I'm in a crowded area, fear the he will be there, even though it's not remotely likely.

It's having a nervous breakdown in the middle of a completely consensual encounter because suddenly he's in my head.

This is my phsych telling me that it is a minimum of two years therapy required, and likely a lot longer.

This is me, at three years old, fearing the bath and toilet at night; fearing that someone would come in and rape me, a fear that to this day I don't know what caused it.

This is hating my mother for suspecting something was up and not doing anything, for letting him come back into our house.

It is fear for my younger sister, who has kept in contact with him.

Most of all, this is an intense hatred of myself, for letting it happen, for never speaking about it, for still not having the strength to tell my family, for loving him so much even after he hurt me.

I cannot escape this. I cannot rationalise this. This is my life, and it takes over all of me.

NB: This is not aimed at anyone, and is not about anyone. This is just my thoughts on the subject, which have been filling my head for a few weeks (since I agreed with my GP to see a therapist).

09 August, 2009

In which I love LM more each day

I was discussing the argument that "Women just don't write mindblowing sci-fi" with LM and he said "The answer to that argument is Andre Norton. She is the Grand Dame of Science Fiction. You can't say women don't write mindblowing sci-fi when she exists".

LM has, on more than one occasion, come out with a comment like this that has absolutely stunned me. I am reminded again and again of why I love Him so much. He is the best friend I could have hoped for, a feminist ally, and someone who truly understands me. I've mentioned before that, when discussing different things (such as the sexism in Transformers ROTF), He is, in a lot of cases, the only man I've spoken to who hasn't made some excuse or written off my arguments. He is someone who sits back, looks at the evidence, and says "Yes, you're right, this is sexist" and then throws some examples of His own down at why it's sexist, and why that is wrong.

LM also said, when I was mentioning female authors, "Oh Connie Willis! How could I have forgotten her? She's definitely in the category of mindblowing!"

And on the topic of men contributing well to this debate, I'd like to quote some comments of Alistair Reynolds in the debate:

"I'm in it and I've never met Mike Ashley, or had any contact with him beyond the usual negotiations for story use. So please can we at least excuse Mike from croneyism?

For my part, as a contributor to anthologies, I don't think I've ever been aware of the TOC until the book is well along the road to publication. However for my part in future negotiations I will strive to ensure that if there is a story of mine in a book, there should also be at least one from a woman."

and also:

"Athena: I wasn't quibbling with the problem of the lack of women in the TOC, merely pointing out that Mike didn't pick the stories purely because he was friendly with the authors. I would also find it strange if the selection criterion was anything other than "SF that Blew Mike Ashley's Mind". Clearly we can all think of mindblowing SF stories by women, but I think that point is well made by now.

Re: blind submission - that's a good point and it's how we ran the BSFA 50th anniversary short competition. I'm not an anthologist, though, so I can't say how it would work in terms of putting a book together. Even with the relatively simple set-up of the BSFA judging process it was possible for me to accidentally discover the identity of one of the authors."

and again:

""Does anyone know the name of a French (i.e. home of Jules Verne) woman SF writer? I certainly don't."

Alliette de Bodard - Interzone, Year's Best SF, Campbell award finalist etc."

Thank you Mr. Reynolds, you've made my list :)

On Reading and Stands

So after the whole TOC of Mindblowing Sci-Fi sans people of colour and women, I was having an interesting discussion with a friend of mine. I said, I will now never buy a novel of Paul di Filippo's, or any anthology where he is a contributor. I said it for the same reason I will not buy anything that Orson Scott Card has written: These men are aresholes, and I do not want to support an arsehole in any way, shape or form.

But, said my friend, just because he's (and by this stage we were talking about Card) a homophobic areshole, that doesn't affect his ability to write good stories. Are you saying his stories are bad?

I said: I will not comment on the quality of the writing, because I have never read it, so I can't.

He replies: But what if they're really good?

I don't care, I said, I will not buy any of his books, ever.

You realise you could be missing out on a lot of great fiction, right?

Yes, I do. But even if his work is fantastic, there are plenty of other fantastic authors who don't write bullshit stuff on the internet. If I can't take a stand, then what's the point of having these feelings?

This conversation has got me thinking. Should we really give authors a free pass because their work is good? Can we really say "Yes, he's an arsehole and I hate that, but I loved Ender's Game!"? I don't know if you can, but I sure as hell can't. I can't make that separation between an authors person and an authors work. I am a writer (though not a professional one) so I know that who we are inevitably creeps into what we do. And if we don't say now "This isn't good enough", when will it ever be said?

On a related note, he was also of the opinion that women just didn't write mindblowing sci-fi. Apparently it's not fast-paced enough, and delas with too much character and feeling (I heard that twice in one day, and argh!). Eventually, I managed to convince him that he was an idiot by saying "Exactly who's definition of mindblowing are you working on? Yours? Why can't it be mine?".
I also said that, being a white male, he was less likely to immediately notice these discrepancies when they happened. "So your one of those feminists who thinks that men can't have an opinion?"
No, I never said that. I said you were less likely to immediately notice because it doesn't affect you in the same way.

I have been known to throw the privilege argument out when I frustrated and upset and can't think of anything to say. And the person I did it to has since told me why that hurt him, and I have apologised and we have a new understanding. But this was clearly not one of those times. Especially since I specifically said "That doesn't mean you can't have an opinion, or that your opinion is less valid, just that you're less likely to immediately notice".

I have another post brewing about the definition of feminism, but that will have to wait, because LM and I are going shopping.

15 July, 2009

Female Appreciation Month - Day One

Ok, Day One of Female Appreciation Month.

I'm going to start with an artist who is very close to my heart Amanda fucking Palmer. (links to the wiki site)

I first became aware of Amanda Palmer when a friend of mine directed me towards The Dresden Dolls, a band featuring Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione. After listening to Girl Anachronism, in which Amanda sings passionately about her experiences with mental instability, and feeling out of place in this world.

Ever since then she has astounded me with her passion and her vocal style. Bad Habit, particularly, has appealed to me in ways I can't begin to comprehend.
Recently she has released a solo album titled Who Killed Amanda Palmer, first released as a mini-series of music videos on her website and YouTube.

I'd like to draw your attention to one of her videos from this series, Oasis. Oasis tells the story of a young girl who is subject to rape, abortion and ridicule, and tells it all through an upbeat and bouncy song. The bright colours and nonchalance of the entire piece makes the subject matter darker, more frank.

I also urge you to check out the other pieces in her series, particularly Leeds United and Ampersand.

Tamora Pierce

I can't think of fantasy novels without my mind turning to Tamora Pierce. Her novels immersed me so completely as a young adult and even today, when I pick up one of her books I find myself trapped in her world for hours, even days.

I am especially fond of her Tortall universe, which began with Alanna: The First Adventure, first book in The Song Of The Lioness series.
From the wiki:
"The Song of the Lioness is a quartet of fantasy books by Tamora Pierce. They tell the story of how Alanna of Trebond (disguised as the boy Alan) swaps places with her twin brother Thom to train as a knight in the royal palace."

Her world building is absolutely amazing. She has built a world of numerous countries, each with their own unique customs and traditions and gods. She goes into great depth to describe relations between different countries, and why relations are the way they are. But her world building never overtakes her driven plots, or her fleshed out characters. She has created huge systems of gods and immortal creatures which I always want to know more about.

Tamora Pierce can also be credited with my introduction into feminism. After reading the Lioness series, I started looking at the world in a very different light. Even though I didn't self-identify as a feminist until very recently, her books were what got me thinking.

Last, but not least, Cibo Matto, an artist I first saw recommended by LJ User: angriest.
From the Wiki:
Cibo Matto (meaning crazy food in Italian, and pronounced [tʃiːbo matːo]) was a New York City-based band formed by two Japanese women, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, in 1994. The lyrics in their songs are primarily concerned with food, possibly used as a metaphor. Their sound has been described as a combination of "Jazz, Hip-Hop, Brazilian music, African Drumming, Japanese Rock, Disco samples, and the cheap, under-funded, un-talented but, nevertheless, creative and genius of the spirit of the underbelly of the city."[1]

This band is crazy and random, and very powerful. Since I adore sci-fi shows and speculative fiction, I have to give you the song Sci-Fi Wasabi

That's all for now. Tune in tomorrow for more Female Appreciation Month.

Link List:
Female Appreciation Month Preamble - the first official post of Female Appreciation Month.
Female Appreciation Month - An Introduction - Where I introduce my part in it
Female Appreciation Month Day 1 by LJ User: girliejones

Hottest 100 and Sexism - the event that kick-started this.
My addendum to the Sexism of the Hottest 100 An addendum, and the first mention of Female Appreciation Month
Female appreciation month - A call out to suggestions for the month

Female Appreciation Month - An Introduction

Posted from my livejournal.

Today, [info]girliejones began Female Appreciation Month, a month in which she plans to showcase female talent in music and writing. I thought this was a fantastic idea, so I asked to be brought on board. With the two of us working together we should be able to bring you 60 female artists and 60 female writers, and 60 female something-else's compiled of reader recommendations.

I'm really pleased to be helping out, and think it is a fantastic idea. I don't think we can cover all of the outstanding female artists and writers in a month, but we'll get through a hell of a lot.

So, before I start my first post (about Amanda fucking Palmer, as if you couldn't guess :P), I'm going to provide you with a list of links about Female Appreciation Month to get you started. Both myself and [info]girliejones will be linking to each others posts, and stockpiling links at the end of each post.

I hope you all enjoy what promises to be an engaging 30 days!

Hottest 100 and Sexism - the event that kick-started this.
My addendum to the Sexism of the Hottest 100 An addendum, and the first mention of Female Appreciation Month
Female appreciation month - A call out to suggestions for the month

And finally: Female Appreciation Month Preamble - the first official post of Female Appreciation Month.

At this point, I also want to ask for submissions from people. Who are you favourite female artists and writers? As well as the two I'm familiar with, I will be talking about one who I have recently discovered.

03 June, 2009

Am I Doing Enough?

Am I doing enough? Am I working hard enough?

Every day women and girls are raped and beaten. Every day women and girls are murdered. Every day women and girls are sold into slavery. Every day physical, sexual and emotional abuse continues, our children treated as less than human, being scarred for years to come.

Every day young girls internalise messages of self-hatred and despair. Rates of suicide, depression, self-harm, eating disorders all continue to increase.

There are women and girls in the world who don't have the right to education, who don't have the right to a voice, who don't have reproductive freedom, who don't have the right to be seen in public.

And what do I do? I blog. I sit here on my privileged arse and whine.

Am I doing enough? Not even remotely.

It's time to start actual activism, focusing on things that matter. I don't know what yet. I don't know what I can do, or if I can do anything. But I have to try.

Cross posted to my livejournal.

03 May, 2009

Stupid Laws in the NT

So it has recently come to my attention (via Cheshire_Bitten) that some pretty fucking stupid laws have been passed in the Northern Territory recently.

Firstly, there is now mandatory reporting of any child under 16 purchasing condoms. Or having sex. And this law applies to everyone. If you are a friend or brother and you know of someone having sex, you must report it.

Then, there is this:
"Any person who has sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 16 is guilty of a crime and liable to imprisonment for 16 years," Dr Bauert said.

"There's no age defence, so if the person who was having sex with somebody under the age of 16 is 15, that is no defence."

That's right, 15 years olds having sex with each other is now rape. Because, you know, teenagers aren't hormone-filled, confused people just trying to figure everything out. They're rapists. Let's jail them for 16 years.

There are many reason why these laws are full of shit, the rape charge being one of them (and the big one, IMHO). But these laws effectively remove sex-ed from the equation. If a 15yo comes to a doctor or teacher for help with preventing pregnancy or STDs, that person will need to report the 15yo.

So with possible jail terms, why would any 15yo ask for help or advice about sex? There's also the possibility that parents, afraid of breaking the law, will not provide the proper information, because that could be seen as encouraging underage sex.

Look, people, a person does not magically mature into a fully-capable human being when they reach that magical, arbitrary age. They aren't suddenly able to make informed decisions. Firstly, some kids are mature at 14. Or younger. Hard to believe, but very, very true. There are also kids who aren't mature at 21. Less hard to believe. Still very true.

Also, kids will experiment, whether they are mature or not. Sticking your head in the sand will not make that go away. Calling 15 year olds rapists will not make that go away. How about instead we encourage proper sex-ed and do our part to help prevent STDs and unplanned pregnancies. Support and help is what a teen needs, not a criminal record!

If you live in the NT, write to your local MP and tell them how fucked up these laws are. If you don't, write to the NT MP and tell them how fucked up these laws are. Not sure how much good letter writing will do, but it's better than doing nothing.

04 March, 2009

Nothing Much Changes

Generation played a key role here. Young women had enjoyed greater personal freedoms during the War and tended to view feminist organizations[sic] as dull and old-fashioned. Former suffrage campaigners, therefore, complained that the young were only interested in personal fulfilment and pleasing men.
Passage taken from Feminism: a short history of a big idea, by June Hannam, Chapter 5 (p110)

This quote is about feminism in the inter-war years. The 1920s. And yet change a couple of words around and it could very easily be applied to feminism today.

Does anything ever really change, or do we just keep going round and round?

02 March, 2009

Paid Maternity Leave and the Australian Public

When I say "Australian Public", I actually only mean the idiot ones. Well, certain idiots anyway, who send letters to the editor about stuff they no very little about. Take maternity leave for example.

As some people may know, the issue of paid maternity/paternity/parental leave was recently reopened by our beloved Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Add this to the recent closures of ABC Learning Centres, and low and behold! Idiots come out of the woodwork and offer their "enlightened" opinions. These are all paraphrased Letters to the Editor, published in The West Australian. They aren't quoted verbatim because, well, that would mean finding old issues of The West, copywright issues... drama drama drama. Also, it's the ideas I'm adressing, not the people themsleves. It's the same ideas I see repeated in that paper time and time again.

Letter One: Why would we want paid maternity leave? We already have the Baby Bonus! Paid maternity leave only helps working mums, but stay-at-home mums are more important than those women who chose to work.

Letter Two: I'm so glad the ABC Centres are closing! Maybe we'll finally see mothers at the park with their children!

Letter Three: Ever wonder why there's an escalating crime rate in this country? It's because mothers don't look after their children! Instead of teaching them proper morals, they leave them in the care of strangers.

Ok, so there's a few issues here that should be discussed.

Firstly, the whole "stay-at-home mums vs. working mums" dichotomy.
I would like to state that I think it's bullocks. Stay-at-home mums aren't worth more than working mums. Working mums aren't worth more than stay-at-home mums. The idea that you can reduce a woman's worth to how she chooses to raise her children is just unbelieveable! Not to mention the fact that some women don't have children, because they can't, because they don't want to, because of a hundred different reasons.
Reproduction is not the be-all and end-all of womanness.

Second, the choice to send children to childcare centres. Sometimes, yes, it is a choice. And when it is a choice, you damn well better respect that choice! Just the same as you damn well better respect the choice of some mothers who want to stay at home with their children.

But it's not always a choice. Lets look at this logically. Let's say you're a single parent. You are able to take a month off from work, unpaid of course, and more if you ask for it (but no guaruntees they'll hold your job for you). That job is your only source of income. The baby bonus is $5000 dollars, lump sum. With no other income and bills to pay, how the hell can you survive?
Or, say you have a double income, and are relying on that to pay your rent, mortgage, bills...? These aren't the only reasons for putting children into child care, but to be so dismissive of all working mothers is completely obsurd.

Third, what about the fathers? The stigma associated with stay-at-home dads is as big as it is stupid. And, yeah, it's a problem. Because fathers have as much of a right and responsibility as mothers with regards to children. But they aren't the ones accused of sending society spiralling out of control.

And finally, the idea that child care centres are going to turn children into psychopathic murderers and cop bashers is, well, absurd. And as someone currently studying to work in childcare, I'd like to give anyone who suggests that I'll screw their children a great big fuck you. But then I'm biased.

The Rules

Because I like rules (I was a Drill Master in highschool ;) and it's easier than trying to figure out what to post. And hey, I'm limited in what I can write at my parent's house.
  • Godwin has no place here. Seriously, the second I see the word Nazi, your comment will be deleated.
  • The above rule applies to the term "Feminazi" Damn I hate that term.
  • This blog is a hate free zone. I love passionate debates, even when they turn nasty, but please leave personal slurs out of it.
  • I also don't like scare quotes. Depending on the "context" I might allow it. (Yes, that was intentional).
So, that's all I have at the moment. I don't think I need many rules, but it does keep the place more civil.

01 March, 2009

Welcome Message

This is the first blog post ever. I'm still working out the kinks, so this will be up until I have real posts ready.